Top critical review
7 people found this helpful
"They call them the haunted shores... Mists gather here, and sea fog, and eerie stories..."
on 9 December 2012
The Uninvited is one of those films that probably owes much of its classic status to how little it has been seen over the years since its release: never available on a legitimate DVD until Exposure's new UK DVD release and rarely seen on TV in most countries, it's developed a formidable reputation as one of the great screen ghost stories that it can't really live up to. Not that it's a bad film by any means, but a few frissons apart it's not a particularly chilling one. Given a bigger budget than usual for the genre in the 40s and a then A-list leading man in Ray Milland, the emphasis seems to be on turning it into a romantic melodrama that's a kind of friendlier, cosier variation on Rebecca even if the plot is quite different. Accidentally stumbling across a large old house in Cornwall, Milland and his sister Ruth Hussey find it's on the market at a suspiciously low price because of its reputation for `disturbances,' but buy it anyway. The former owner, gruff Donald Crisp, wants it off his hands to keep his granddaughter Gail Russell away, and as pets refuse to go upstairs and unexpected chills and scents give way to sobbing in the night, it becomes clear that her long-dead mother hasn't vacated the premises - and that she's not the only ghost in the house either...
It's a well enough developed mystery even if you can see the resolution coming as soon as one character lets slip one vital bit of back story, but it doesn't seem to want to frighten its audience much, which was probably a sound commercial decision in 1944 but today leaves it in the shadow of more genuinely unsettling ghost stories like The Haunting. Seen with lowered expectations, it's a nice, cosy picture (well, the screenplay was co-written by 101 Dalmatians' Dodie Smith) with some good moments - a faked séance that turns real, some effective apparitions and a satisfying way of finally laying the malignant spirit - rather than a great one. Exposure's DVD, licensed from Universal, is a more than decent effort. The picture quality may not be quite top notch and is clearly unrestored but is certainly good enough, and they've put real effort into the extras - two radio adaptations with Milland from 1944 and 1949, the original theatrical trailer and a booklet.